Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Jam - Saturdays Kids

"Saturday's girls work in Tesco's and Woolworths."

But not for much longer.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Once upon a time

were the Cobblers to play Leeds United it would be a Heap Big Deal. But things change.

Last night we played Leeds United for the third time since 7th November.

7th November - FA Cup 1st round at Elland Road. It was on tele, but I did not see it as I was watching the Cold War Kids play at the Astoria, Charing Cross instead. Through the wonder that is texting I did however know that we were 1 nil up within 8 minutes, lost our captain to injury two minutes later, had a player sent off ten minutes after that, and conceded a penalty all before half time. Not a dull first half then. We then by all accounts defended for our lives and saw the match out for a replay.

18th November - FA Cup 1st round replay at our place. I actually watched this from the comfort of Reidski's front room. Had I gone to the match it would have cost me £22 - £3 more than our usual ticket prices - to watch the side that I would be seeing the following Tuesday anyway - and in any event the match was also being televised.


We were absolutely dire and it was painful to watch. We got thumped 5-2 at home, our last goal coming in the 89th minute. (I texted my son at that point to say we had scored with a minute to go so he should not abandon hope.)

True to say I was not looking forward to 25th November - League One home game. I took a mate of my son as my son was working last night and couldn't use his ticket. I jokingly said to this lad on the way there "You're not a secret Leeds United supporter are you? " "No" he replied, "I AM a Leeds United supporter." (Nothing secret there then.) That was all I needed - thought of taking a gloating Leeds fan home after the match - bloody marvellous.

But hey - what do you know? We were superb and deservedly won

I would say that it's a funny old game, if I did not have a sneaking suspicion someone somewhere may have said that before.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I love local news stories

This one comes from Reidksi's home town. It has the lot - a mistake that could happen to anyone (couldn't it?), sex (possibly), violence (definitely), the bowling club (naturally), and a great last line.

Margaret refused to comment.

In those circumstances that seems like the wisest course of action....unless of course she is just waiting for the tabloids to ocme up with their best offer for her Exclusive.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Harry and Paul-Dragons Den 2-Kitten Stomper

I LIKE kittens.

But I still think this is hilarious.

Getting to Egypt

Yes - I know I promised I had finished with the subject of Egypt, but the following tale doesn't count cos we weren't actually IN Egypt at this point*. In fact - at that particular point we all began to wonder if we were in fact going to get to Egypt in the first place.

In order to get to Egypt we have decided to take an aeroplane. This means travelling from Heathrow Airport's new Terminal Five, a decision which provokes comment from even the youngest members of the group, all of whom are aware of publicity regarding the disasterous opening of the Terminal a few months ago. Now was all this bad publicity fair?

The new Terminal Five is a massive facility, designed to relieve congestion at the airport and improve the travelling experience. It is designed to handle all of Briish Airways flights from Heathrow.

Unfortunately, the much-publisised opening was dogged by problems, cancelled flights, computer systems not working, massive levels of lost luggage; in other words complete testament to the fact that we British, when faced with the task of building anything larger than a garden shed, always manage to cock it up. In fact Graham who was one of our party and who is himself a frequent traveller, has an unfortunate friend who arrived at terminal 5 at 11 o'clock one morning, whose flight was cancelled at 11 o'clock the same night, whose luggage was lost in the meantime, and whose travel insurance was declared invalid since, technically, he had not travelled.

When one is due to travel via Terminal Five one receives a leaflet from British Airways telling one how to negotiate Terminal Five without stress. That didn't seem quite as reassuring as B.A. no doubt intended that it should be.

Our collective feeling of unease was compounded at check-in, where a unique system has been adopted by the authorities. What you don't do when checking-in at Terminal Five is go up to the check-in desk and check in. What you do is go to the check-in desk, get told to go to do-it-yourself check-in computer screens, check in each of the seventeen members of the party separately, get issued seventeen boarding passes where no two seats are together, go back to the original check-in desk to have all of the machine-issued boarding passes cancelled so they can issue new ones manually and try to seat the group in the same section of the plane. It is a unique system. And it took an incredibly long time which was why we all started to wonder if we were in fact travelling to Egpyt or not.

Still, all the hanging around sorting out our seats did give some of us the opportunity to read some of our travel guides whilst we were waiting and now I finally get to the one thing I really wanted to tell you about Egypt but had somehow neglected to in my earlier posts. I think you will agree that the following information was well worth waiting for.

One of the things we learnt from one of the books was that:

"The Egyptian pyramids are pyramid shaped structures to be found in Egypt".

As you may imagine - this came as something of a surprise.

* My blog - my rules to make or break as convenient.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Feeling a bit depressed

I don't know why I let it get to me. It has certainly not been a good few weeks to be a social worker but nevertheless the vast majority of us work really hard in challenging circumstances.

So then I read something like this about some woman who claims she was told she was too posh to adopt, and it isn't so much the article that bothers me (typical Daily Mail story) but it is the comments that follow it. 191 to date. And so very many posted by some of the very many people who obviously simply hate social workers.

Makes me wonder why any of us bother.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I've just gone off my favourite programme

I didn't like reading that other contestants snubbed John at the end of Sunday's results programme.

I don't like it that John Sergeant has now quit Strictly Come Dancing. If this show is a dancing competition then just pick 'celebrities' who are young, fit and have already got dancing experience. If it is, as some of us were under the impression it was, in fact harmless entertainment then pick a cross section of the population to take part and don't get hot under the collar when the voting public actually vote for the person that entertains them the most.

And yes I do realise that many people think SCD is neither of the above and is in fact just a load of rubbish, but I liked it in a passive non voting kind of way, and after today I really don't like it anywhere near as much.

For anyone who never had the pleasure of seeing John jive, and who is not easily distressed by dancing that is not of the highest possible standard.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Look out

Iain Dale. The blogger beloved of the media has a rival and he must be shaking in his Tory boots. Yes, another blogger - well known to literally tens of other bloggers (or at least to tens of other people if you count all my distant relations) is in running for the title of media darling.

Or not.

OK - not content with snogging Tony Blair in full view of television cameras (another story)- in my mad pursuit of media recognition I e-mailed Radio 5 on the subject of Baby P. I had been listening to the Victoria Derbyshire programme and the phone in was about how social workers did bad. After the discussion ended I sent an email about it and thirty seconds later my mobile rang. Radio 5 to say they were very interested in what I had said and would I be prepared to talk on air to Victoria about it? Well modesty forbade - but obviously I got over that and





Well - not quite as one does not want to appear too easy to get, but opportunity to sound off on a subject close to my heart???? Here we go, here we fucking go. I did agree and I did indeed chat with Vix (as her closest bosom pals know her) and it seemed to go OK. As in; I didn't make a complete and utter tit of myself on nationwide radio.*

Half an hour or so later though I got another call. BBC News. I assumed it was the radio station again and was therefore more than a little thrown to be asked if I would appear on a television discussion programme they planned to put out on Friday evening. So fame and if not fortune maybe at least a token expense claim beckoned.

Petite Anglais, Norm, The Girl With the One Track Mind, that other tart that sold books about how being a prostitute is really ace. For one moment 'It Could Have Been Me' too.

Except I said I couldn't possibly. But thank you very much for asking me.

* And did anyone I know ring me to say they heard me and I was bloody marvellous? No they did not.

Although maybe they did hear me, and thought it kindest to pretend they did not!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Nat is blogging again

And she brings us wonderful tales like this one concerning a drawing of a spider with 7 legs and an overdue utility bill.

The story has a very satisfactory ending indeed.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Baby P

I used to work for the London Borough of Haringey.

It is a borough too often in the news for all the wrong reasons.

I wasn’t in social services although my job did bring me into regular contact with that department. My area of work was community relations and I was there at the time of the Broadwater Farm riot where PC Keith Blakelock was murdered. As you may imagine promoting good community relations following that terrible night wasn’t easy.

When Victoria Climbie died it sounds awful but I wasn’t surprised. There were many inadequate workers at the Council but they either went unchallenged or we noticed they got promoted. It was all too easy to understand how an inexperienced social worker without proper support from supervisors could fail a child with such terrible consequences. The fact that it is happened to yet another child within the same borough - in fact just a few streets away from where Victoria died, is however not so much as surprising as frankly beyond understanding. Where a mother has actually been arrested twice on ‘suspicion’ of child cruelty and both times released; where a child is recognised as being at risk and is on the local Child Protection Register; where a child has been taken into foster care because of concerns for his welfare and safety – for crying out loud how many serious concerns does any authority need to have before they remove a child for his or her own protection, let alone the very Local Authority who had failed Victoria Climbie?

I am trying to get my head round this and I do think that partly The Children’s Act of 1989 is at fault because this emphasises that the best interests of a child are normally served by keeping the youngster within their birth family. I quote directly from the Act: The underlying philosophy in the provision of services is to work in partnership with parents and children to prevent the breakdown of family relationships and minimise the need to have recourse to Court or emergency protection.

So what workers are supposed to do is take every possible step to keep a child at home; whether by putting in a family support worker to assist with parenting, sending a parent on courses designed to help them care properly for their children, or anger management training, or ensuring respite care for the child and parent. So the social workers act as a family friend and inevitably form some kind of relationship with the parent/parents, and that does make it difficult to reach the decision that the child needs to be removed because actually in this case the family represents danger for that child. That same worker moves from being a helpful family friend to Family Enemy Number 1.

If the case gets to court, because of the basic premise of The Children’s Act the Family Courts in care cases will always insist on knowing what measures social workers have taken to keep the family unit together and if they don’t think enough has been done they often return the child to their parent/parents. The court appointed officer (The Guardian ad Litem) who investigates the circumstances for the child will first and foremost look into how that child can remain at home. It is the social worker who has to fight that belief within the adversarial atmosphere of a court case that a child’s interests are best served by remaining at home – with support from the services if necessary. It isn’t surprising if maybe a worker will be over optimistic that a family can be trusted to care for the child safely when the alternative is becoming immersed in hostile proceedings. We also all know the poor outcomes for children that do end up in the Care System.

Yet so often it is glaring obvious from the very beginning that a child needs to be removed from their family. In my work now I summarise care files for people who went on to be adopted and I often read in disbelief at the sheer scale of recorded abuse which was allowed to continue for months and in some cases years before children were removed whilst parents are given one more chance after one more chance to prove they can adequately protect their children.

Having said all that though I still find it inexplicable that workers in Haringey of all places could fail to spot what was going on with this poor Baby P (and why he can’t be identified along with his mother and her partner I really don’t understand?*) when they were visiting his home week in, week out. One thing stands out to me in all the horrific catalogue of injuries… (Baby P had) Blackened finger and toenails, with several nails missing; the middle finger of his right hand was without a nail and its tip was also missing, as if it had been sliced off.

How does anyone involved with the welfare of a child miss that?

* the doting parents had another child when she was in prison so that explains the anonymity.

Wednesday - I just read the serious case review. Not only did the mother have another child in prison - there are three older siblings to Baby P. Wonder where they are right now the poor, poor children.

Monday, November 10, 2008

And how was your election night?

I haven’t mentioned the US election have I? Not because I didn’t care, and I can tell you I got very little sleep on the Tuesday night, but in the event it wasn’t fear that the polls had got it wrong that stopped me sleeping, but flashbacks to something that had happened earlier that night.

Reidski had been up to see me and we were headed for the train station for him to get home, but before then I had pulled into a petrol station; not for fuel but to go in the shop. I was driving in between two sets of pumps when the driver of a vehicle which was stationary at a pump to my left flung open her car door right in front of me. At first I thought I had managed to stop in time as I felt no impact and I put the window down to ask her what on earth she thought she was doing. “What do you mean, what the hell were YOU doing?” was the abridged version of the response, minus one or twenty swear words. She then announced my car was damaged so I got out and said “OK – we need to exchange our details then.” “I’m not fucking giving you no details” she screeched.

She then discovered she had damaged the bottom corner of her car door and that she couldn’t shut it and that was when she went completely mad – as did the woman she was with. The driver kept screaming “Hold me back, hold me back!” as she was so desperate to punch my face in. She accused me of driving like a bat out of hell – I said “What, about 10 miles an hour?” and she screamed “There! You admit driving like a mad woman!” That was when I asked her if she had been drinking but she said they had been at a meeting. I am a social worker and must never be judgemental – but they were dressed up like a pair of tarts – all thongs showing and tattoos on lots of exposed bare flesh. Is that the normal dress code these days for attending ‘a meeting’?

My observation that “You didn’t look” before she flung open her door remained ignored.

As she flatly refused to exchange any details I tried to get some photos – and she and her friend tried to stop me, but I did get one in the end of her registration and then we left before they did actually physically attack me. Both of us were sure they were about to do just that. Neither of us was actually that keen to get into any kind of fight. No doubt if trouble had started Reidski would have ended up in trouble for touching a female even though he would only have been trying to look after me.

Afterwards I was shaking like a leaf. They had really frightened me, but when I was actually at the scene I was determined not to let them know I was intimidated

I went to the police the next morning, and obviously informed my insurers. I also checked with the garage and they do have CCTV footage of the incident. One dent in my bumper = £558 worth of damage.

To no ones surprise, in the light of the way she reacted to an accident which was entirely and utterly her fault (I refer you to the Highway Code Section 239 - You MUST ensure you do not hit anyone when you open your door. Check for cyclists or other traffic) – I have just had it confirmed that she is not insured. Fuck it.

I can not express just exactly how much I wish this woman to get bucket loads of trouble for this.

P.S. All that night as I lay awake replaying the incident in my mind, I didn’t dare turn the radio on, as I felt bad enough as it was. If on top of that Obama had lost I would have cried.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

And finally

before all three of you declare a permanent boycott on account of you're sick to death of me going on about Egypt,(did I mention I have just been to Egypt?) I bring you the Eighth Wonder of the Ancient World. And a very significant wonder of the 1960's too.

Ramesses II was something of an egotistical bastard. Not content with knowing he was immortal he covered the land of Egypt from the Delta to Nubia with buildings in a way no king before him had done - and all featured him, him, him...and not in a small way.

Here is matey boy at Abu Simbel - alias the Eighth Wonder of the Ancient World/1960's.

On Friday we flew from Aswan down to Abu Simbel especially to see the two temples there - one for him and one for his Most Beloved Wife, Nefertari - no mean feat as he had hundreds of them - although apparently he never got to meet all of them, let alone shag them all. Words can not describe the sheer scale and beauty of these monuments - but what is ever more head ache inducing is that because the building of the Aswan High Dam woudl mean this and other ancient monuments would be lost under the newly created Lake Nasser, there was a world wide effort to move the monuments to higher ground. And thus the Abu Simbel we visited is 65 metres higher than its original site. Well I have been there and I still can't believe it was possible. The temples within the mountains are stunning with the colours of the frescos almost as fresh as the day they were painted. But how they ever moved them I will never ever know.

Truly incredible.

Scenes from the Nile

I kept being reminded of the copy I used to have of The Children's Illustrated Bible.

And the East

I am going to have to try to rein in some of my enthusiasm for Egypt as I don't wish to be responsible for boring any passer by to death, but Tuesday meant the Temple of Luxor (Bizarrely in view of its enormous size also known as the Small Temple: It is all comparative of course.) and the Temple of Karnak. These temples had been lost during the passage of time under the drifting sand, and quite forgotten, though it does seem rather beyond the normal bounds of carelessness to mislay a temple containing 136 columns, like the ones in the picture, in just one chamber alone.

Homes and mosques were built on top of where the Temple of Luxor lay buried.

It took something like a hundred years to remove the sands back in the 19th Century, but what must it have been like for those who were uncovering these amazing structures?

The authorities at Luxor are currently working to restore the ancient sites to resemble how they must have looked at the time they were constructed. Unfortunately this does mean that people are forcibly relocated to homes elsewhere. There is evidence all over the area of demolished houses. It is still better than Cairo though where there are so many dilapidated buildings the place looks like a war zone. It is difficult to say this without sounding crass, but the poverty we saw out there couldn't fail to make one feel very uncomfortable as we passed it by either in our air conditioned coaches, or on our luxury cruiser. One morning we went to a Temple in a horsedrawn cart. I honestly did not think our poor horse was going to make it back to our boat without pegging it. I found myself obsessing about the condition of the horse as it struggled along, being constantly whipped by its callous owner up a hill in blazing heat, but then I caught a glimpse of a mother and child. Enough to say I had got my priorities wrong with my concern for the horse.

(Jane makes mental note to be more up beat in next post.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The West Bank at Luxor

So anyway our first full day took in the Pyramids and a visit to see how papyrus is made. The second full day was a quiet one for me, although if one has to be left behind in a hotel whilst one’s family and friends go out and enjoy themselves this one wasn't a bad one to be stuck in.

The following day started with a phone ringing in my ear and when I answered it I received the following totally unwelcome message: “Good morning, this is your 2.00am wake up call.”




We had to catch a flight down to Luxor. Some four hours later and we were at the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut

feeling some what disorientated but nevertheless still massively impressed. This was where we found out that guides at the various sites will grab you, tell you lots of interesting facts about the temple, and then demand money – never mind that you have not understood a single thing they have told you. This was the site of
the Luxor Massacre in 1997. Security at the various tourist traps is now pretty tight as a result of that horrendous event.

We moved on to The Valley of the Kings.

The pharaohs sussed that the Pyramids were not providing safe keeping for all that treasure they were going to be in urgent need of over in that Afterlife of theirs, on account of they were all raided about five minutes after the front exits had been sealed. So what better idea for ones passage to the Here-After than to go many miles down the Nile to ancient Thebes, and there get the hired help to dig out elaborate tombs deep inside the sandstone rocks? They thought of everything to prevent further thefts – false entrances, false tunnels, traps – but they abjectly failed. It was clearly very well known that there was ‘Gold in them there hills’, and everything that wasn’t nailed down was duly nicked. Well, not quite everything as Howard Carter found on the 27th November 1922 when he finally entered Tutankhamun’s tomb. This comes from his dairy that day:

“It was a sight surpassing all precedent, and one we never dreamed of seeing. We were astonished by the beauty and refinement of the art displayed by the objects surpassing all we could have imagined - the impression was overwhelming”.

It had been thought that that was definitely the last tomb in the Valley until very recently when
this story broke.
In fact when we were there was a team of archaeologists working at the site who were confident they were on the verge of unearthing yet another tomb – all very exciting.

You are not allowed to take photos inside the tombs but the illustrated stories of the journey into the Afterlife are, in the tombs we visited, remarkably well preserved.

We followed this with trips to the Valley of the Queens and an alabaster factory too before we were finally allowed to check in on our cruise ship. It is bloody hard work being on holiday. I then had to fit in some very important worship of the Sun God on my own behalf.

I have to confess that after our nightmarishly early start, I did not make the late night disco on board our ship that evening.

We all grow up learning about Ancient Egypt at school

but I don't think any of that education can ever prepare you for your first sight of the Pyramids.

There was one question that played on all our minds all week whether we were looking at the Pyramids, or the Sphinx, or the various spectacular temples, or the Valley of the Kings, or indeed the Aswan Dam, and that was the very obvious one of "How the fucking hell did they ever manage to do this?"

Now I have always wondered that about Stonehenge which is roughly speaking, give or take a century or two, the same age as the first pyramids. The Egyptian monuments however, make assembling Stonehenge look like playing with lego in comparison.

This is a photo of the outside of Kom Ombu temple - the art work is so well preserved, and in Egypt you see those engravings everywhere.

And as for how they got the materials to where they were building??? At Luxor Temple there is an Obelisk of Hatshepsut (1473-1458 BC). It is 97 feet (29.6m) high and weighs approximately 320 tons, made of sheer granite. The only place in Egypt where granite is obtainable is Aswan - over a hundred miles down river and the obelisk is just one piece of stone. 20 years ago an attempt was made locally to transport a piece of granite weighing just 20 tons by river from Aswan up to Luxor. The vessel sank before it had made it ten kilometres.

I was always taught the Egyptians used slaves to build the Pyramids, but this we learnt was untrue. In fact the workers were paid,and spent the months working on the pyramids when the river was flooded and they were unable to cultivate their own land. Historians have found and deciphered diaries of the workers who built the pyramids. One recorded how tired he was of his tedious diet. "Fish in the morning, fish at dinner, fish at night, fish again next day...." He should complain! I ate practically nothing but plain rice and bread whilst I was there!

Monday, November 03, 2008


In Northampton snow stopped play, where I was the weather conditions were somewhat better. 32 degrees centigrade whilst we were at Luxor Temple - and yes - the sky really was that blue!

I spent the afternoon that day after we got back to our ship sunbathing.

Never count your chickens

I did spend some of that weekend marvelling at the Pyramids. I even spent a proportion of that weekend IN a Pyramid, to which I would have to say we all make mistakes. I did have the option NOT to go into a Pyramid but go into a Pyramid I did. Truly horrible - hot, claustrophobic, and absolutely airless - but I am glad I did it, if only because that means I will never feel the need to do it again. Apparently when Napoleon was in Cairo he insisted on spending a night alone holed up in the Great Pyramid: He emerged the following morning a quivering wreck and for the first time in my life I can sympathise with the pint sized emperor.

What I did not do however, was spend any part of that weekend at the Cairo museum. This fact being not unrelated to me having spent the best (for which read worst) part of Saturday night being violently sick. Want to lose weight? Forget dieting - just go to Egypt. And for the bulimics and laxative abusers amongst us it will all be second nature anyway. Whilst that deeply unpleasant episode was mercifully short (though not at all sweet), it wiped out my appetite for the entire week and for the first time in my life I have come back from a holiday skinnier than I was when I arrived.

Lots to relate but for now I leave you with a picture of my off spring at the Temple of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel, built in the 13th Century BC. Typical of the Egyptians in that not content with building something so awe inspiringly massive in the first place they then decided to move the bloody thing!. We lesser mortals would have decided the whole concept was impossible and gone to the pub instead.